The sun is shining, the bulbs are appearing and the days are getting longer- it must be time to blitz the garden. Without fail every spring our clinic phone starts ringing with a stream of over enthusiastic gardeners – never more so than after the 4 day Easter bank holiday. While it keeps us busy most gardening injuries are entirely preventable, so I offer you my top 10 tips for pain free gardening.
- Warm up – Gardening is a physical activity and like any other exercise requires your muscles to be warmed up before you start and stretched afterwards. A few flexibility exercises prior to starting work and 5 minutes stretching and a hot bath after will help prevent stiffness the following day.
- Pace yourself – too many people view a bank holiday weekend as a chance to “blitz” the garden, but this can predictably end in injury. It is safer to chip away at the jobs for an hour, a few times a week, than think your body will cope with 3 full days of digging. You wouldn’t hit the gym for 5 hrs after a winter of inactivity without expecting to suffer.
- Vary your activity – Try and vary your activity in the garden, avoiding hours of digging or bending in one go. Allow your muscles time to rest by limiting each activity to ½ hour before having a break or moving to a different task.
- Lift correctly – Incorrect lifting is the biggest cause of back injuries in the garden- always lift with bent knees and a straight back (think of a weightlifter’s posture). Use a lifting aid or ask for help moving heavy pots- the blade of a spade can be used under a pot to act like a sledge and allow you to push a pot about.
- Clear as you go – It is all too easy to build an ever increasing pile of vegetation which you try and move all in one go at the end of a long day, when you are tired and getting cold. Much better, make several lighter trips to the compost heap throughout the day to avoid the risk a back injury that may have you out of action for weeks.
- Listen to your back – If you start feeling pain in your back while gardening- STOP; the roses can wait. Pain is your back’s way of saying it is tired and therefore vulnerable to injury.
- Get the right tools – There is a wealth of equipment designed to make your life easier in the garden- long handled hoes, pruners and forks will limit time bent over. Go on treat yourself.
- Raised beds – If you are redesigning a garden incorporate raised beds when possible – bring the plants to you to save bending so much.
- After care –when you finish a hard day in the garden have a hot bath or use a hot water bottle for 20 minutes, to help reduce the chance of feeling seized up the following day. Collapsing on the sofa with a glass of wine might sound appealing but you may struggle to get up after!
- Seek advice – If post gardening pain does not settle in 3 to 4 days get some advice or treatment from your osteopath. If you already know you have a back problem, a check-up before embarking on the garden could save you weeks in pain.
For more advice or speak to one of the Osteopaths please do not hesitate to ring The Practice at Ferndown 01202 890044. 120 Victoria Road, Ferndown, Dorset Bh22 9JA